ENTERPRISE, Ala. – Images of severe weather can be captured instantaneously, thanks to television and social media. Warnings are issued, giving us a heads-up to seek shelter and sometimes that’s not enough.

As it was the case on March 1, 2007 when eight high school students died after a tornado hit their school. They sought shelter in the gymnasium where a wall collapsed on top of them. Now their schools have shelters to prevent any future deaths, but is that enough?

Nothing can replace a life, but when the next storm strikes a shelter not only adds protection. It also adds comfort to those who have survived a tornado.

March 1, 2007 didn’t turn out to be just any typical day for former science teacher Lori Snell.

“The weather started to get worse and we started to get the warnings,” said Snell.

Little did she know that a tornado would make a direct hit to the school.

“And we hunkered down in the hall,” said Snell.

Enterprise High School was hit by a devastating EF4 tornado that afternoon. Nine people, including eight students, were killed becoming the first time since the 90s that students were killed in a tornado while at school. Since that day the school district has taken major steps in becoming the safest school district in America.

“We now have secure entrances at all our schools as well as ICC 500 rated safety shelters at all of our schools,” said Enterprise City Schools Superintendent Dr. Camille Wright.

At Enterprise High School, the ICC 500 safety shelter is made of reinforced concrete and steel walls using rebar, storm doors, and storm shutters, giving this the top rating and protection needed, from wind or flying debris.

“The new windows that will with stand an F5 tornado, but most of ours have shutters, metal shutters that will close,” said Dr. Wright.

Eight of nine schools in the school district have these shelters which can withstand winds in excess of 200 miles per hour, but it comes with a price.

“The city council and mayor made the determination to raise the sales tax by a half cent,” said Dr. Wright.

Nearly three years later the cost was covered.

“They raised a bond for 20 million then gave us 16.68 (million). Part of that was for renovating all of our schools for safety and security,” said Dr. Wright.

After the events of March 1, 2007, new codes and guidelines were put in place for new schools being built across Alabama; however, older schools like Dauphin Jr. High School here is an older school so they are building a safe room onto their pre-existing structure.

With Alabama seeing more tornadoes on average each year than Georgia, they are definitely leading the initiative with eight shelters in Enterprise and three schools in the Tuscaloosa area equipped with storm shelters after the April 2011 tornado outbreak.

With Georgia not far behind in annual tornadoes, I reached out to the Muscogee County School District to see if shelters are a consideration on this side of the river.

We were told there is no such requirement for Georgia schools, but the walls in new schools are reinforced with rebar for additional safety.

Safety plans are in place for schools that lack a safety shelter which involves students being placed in an interior hallway. The FirstAlert Weather Team reminds us all the time during tornado warnings to always put as many walls between you and the outside. You can see more in depth safety tips here.